Chronic pain and the changing seasons

September 10, 2019

effects of changing seasons on chronic painFall is upon us, and while it may be hard for many people to let go of summer and the fun it brings, others may dread the new season for a different type of reason. When the weather changes significantly with the seasons, some people may experience increased or worsened pain caused by various conditions. 

Changing seasons and weather related pain

Studies have shown that people suffering from joint pain, headaches, arthritis, and fibromyalgia may experience flare ups or increases in pain correlated with changes in barometric pressure and other factors when temperatures go from warm to cool or cold. 

Barometric pressure is the weight of the surrounding atmosphere. This pressure typically drops prior to bad weather, which means there is less air pressure on the body. This causes tissue to expand. Expanded tissue creates pressure within the body that then results in pain or the sensation of pain or discomfort. People who suffer from chronic pain may have heightened sensitivity to such pain.

Structures within joints each have different densities and react differently to temperature changes. Some may be looser than others, while others may be tighter, taking longer to warm up. Until they do, you may experience joint dysfunction. There is also some research that suggests seasonal drops in temperature may affect the viscosity of synovial fluid in joints. 

Fall and winter may bring more cloudy, damp, gloomy weather, resulting in people not spending as much time outside, and not getting as much sun. This increases secretion of melatonin from the brain’s pineal gland, which can make people drowsy and less energetic. Since we know that being active and regular, appropriate exercise often makes chronic pain better,  not being involved in these activities can make pain worse.

How to deal with weather related pain

While we might all wish we could move to a place with a warm, sunny climate all year round, that’s not practical for most of us. Lifestyle changes can go a long way in making the transition between seasons go more smoothly, with less pain for you.

  1. Be careful about your diet. Reducing your consumption of inflammation-inducing foods may help. This includes foods such as red meat, fried foods, sugar, and processed starches. It’s also best to completely eliminate tobacco use.
  2. Drink plenty of water. Drinking enough water daily is always a good idea, and it may play a big part for keeping your spine healthy. Avoid alcoholic beverages that can lead to dehydration, depression, and anxiety, all of which may make pain worse.
  3. Try to stay warm. Layer clothing or keep your house warm to keep the winter chill away. You may want to invest in a heating pad for the home and workplace.
  4. Get out in the sunlight on a regular basis. Getting plenty of natural light can keep you from feeling depressed or anxious. If you are outside, you are also more likely to be active, even if that means going for a short walk.
  5. Prevent swelling. Additional fluid in the area where you experience pain will increase this pain. Spandex gloves, compression shirts and/or pants may help keep fluid away from your joints.
  6. Engage in your favorite hobbies. During colder months, this can be a good distraction from pain, and again, may keep you more active. 

The above tips can go a long way in helping with seasonal pain, but it’s also important to remind yourself that seasons are temporary and this one will pass. Rather than wishing a season away, we encourage you to find ways to cope with the situation you are in now. Being positive and finding things that make you happy anytime can be a huge benefit for those with chronic pain. 

For more advice about dealing with changing seasons, or if you think your increased pain is a result of a greater problem, please contact your doctor at Southside Pain Specialists.

Southside Pain Specialists is your one-stop shop for pain management

With a multitude of pain relief options tailored to your specific needs, Southside Pain Specialists follow the standards of the American Society of Interventional Pain Physicians, The American Board of Pain Medicine and the International Spinal Injection Society and works hard to provide patients comprehensive, caring pain relief when they need it most. Check out our website or contact us today at 205.332.3155 to learn more.